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Study to report effectiveness of anti-depression drugs (11/20/97)

A report analyzing the effectiveness of new drug treatments for depression will be completed in late 1998 by faculty from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and staff physicians at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio.

"We'll systematically review several hundred scientific articles from around the world that have studied new depression medications in the past five to 10 years," said Cindy D. Mulrow, MD, professor of medicine and geriatrics at the Health Science Center and section head of general internal medicine at the VA. "Based on that analysis, we'll publish an evidence-based summary that outlines which drugs for depression work and which don't.

"Our summary will not take the form of guidelines for physicians; it will simply point to the evidence. This will enable health care systems, doctors and their patients to make informed decisions about what to do, based on their own view of the evidence, their resources and values."

The report, which began in October, is funded by the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. The agency designated the San Antonio team an Evidence-Based Practice Center, one of 12 in the country, selected to systematically review the relevant scientific literature about various topics. In addition to depression, topics include medication for alcohol dependence, management of chest pain, treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and diagnosis and treatment of acute sinusitis.

"The systematic reviews will help bring evidence to practice," Dr. Mulrow said. "Ideally they'll help make patient care more standardized and appropriate."

Professional staff members involved in the San Antonio depression report include project manager Elaine Chiquette, PharmD; content expert John Williams, PhD; statistician John Cornell, PhD; and data abstraction experts Christine Aguilar, MD, and Polly Hitchcock-Noel, PhD. Outside technical experts include the science editor of the magazine *Consumer Reports*, a Dartmouth professor representing the American College of Physicians, a senior investigator with Kaiser Permanent (a consortium of HMOs), and representatives from the American Pharmaceutical Association and the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Our technical experts will help us refine the research questions we'll seek to answer, review the forms we use to abstract data from all of the scientific studies, help select the data we'll include in our evidence tables and review the final draft report," Mulrow said, adding that another 50 scientists from around the country will help review the articles included in the report.

Dr. Mulrow and her team have been involved in conducting systematic reviews since 1997 through funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Cochrane Collaboration, an international group of medical scientists formed in Oxford, England in 1992 that now has spread to North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Their mission is to prepare, maintain and disseminate systematic reviews of the effects of health care that are published in the electronic Cochrane Library, available at the Health Science Center's Briscoe Library and select medical libraries around the world.

Contact: Karen Stamm, (210) 617-5300, ext. 4266